Senator Gershom Bassey the Deputy Chairman, Senate Committee on Petroleum, Upstream represents Cross River South Senatorial District and was among the founding members of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP in Cross River. In this interview, he says the All Progressives Congress-led federal government has shrunk a robust economy which was the largest in Africa before 2015. He also reacts to insinuations that the oil industry induced the National Assembly against the passage of the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill, PIGB and on claims that the PDP in Cross River State is in death throes. Excerpts:
By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
HAS the APC Federal Government done well after two years?
Well, they have tried their best, let me put it that way. But I think that Nigerians want a bit more than that, so far, they have done their best, but they need to do much more because Nigerians voted for more and deserved more and the APC promised more. So, I don’t think they have met the expectations of Nigerians.
How do you compare the performance of the APC to that of the last PDP administration after two years?
Well, look, APC inherited the largest economy in Africa, today we are no longer the largest economy in Africa. You can give whatever reasons that you like, but it is incumbent on the APC to ensure with all its election promises that we return and surpass the level we are now.
Are you insinuating that APC has shrunk the fortune of the economy of the country?
Of course. Have you not seen it? Are we not in a recession? The economy that the APC met has shrunk. It is not as large as it was when the APC met it. I have seen their recovery plan, so, I expect that the APC has to do everything in their power, to ensure that they return Nigeria to be the largest economy in Africa. I don’t want to go into details. They were bequeathed with a large economy; they should return us not the same size but the largest economy in Africa, it should be even bigger than the one they met.
What do you think was responsible for the recession in the country?
I think it is self-inflicted. I think that there are mistakes we made in the management of our economy by this administration. The previous administration left the largest economy in Africa even with all the problems that we have identified in the previous administration, they still left Nigeria as the largest economy in Africa with all the problems. Now, this present government says it doesn’t have those same problems, and yet the economy is shrinking. So, they need to do something to return us to our former level.
Given the problems facing the PDP, do you think the party can return to power?
Oh yes. Look I don’t think it is about PDP or APC. I think at this point of our history, it is about Nigeria and we need to say look, what are we going to do to put Nigeria back to the pedestal where it used to be. That is what we are going to do, and it is across party lines. We need to sit down as a political class and look at how we are going to move our country forward, that is the real issue.
I am still a PDP member and whenever I go to my constituency and call for meeting everywhere will be full that shows that PDP is alive and well. If any of my colleagues in the PDP goes home and calls a meeting in his constituency, the hall will be full. So, the PDP is still alive and kicking.
PDP is alive and well because, at the grassroots, the party still has tremendous support. Yes, there are issues at the leadership level, that is, at the national leadership level because in my state (Cross River) the party is intact.
Is PDP not living on past glory?
No, I don’t think so. I think our glory is current.
Even with the spate of defections to the APC?
No, I don’t think so. I think it is just very few persons that have gone to the APC, but there have also been people that have crossed from the APC to the PDP.
What is responsible for the defections?
Well, you know all politics is local and in a lot of situations, it is because of the local politics of whichever area the person is defecting from.
But apart from maybe Senator John Owan Enoh, others that have defected are not going to change the fortunes of the party in any way.
But former Senator Florence Ita-Giwa was among the people that defected recently, will that not affect the party in the next elections?
No, Senator Florence has not been very active recently. I think she has been more involved in other issues; I am not sure she has been so active on the ground. Apart from John Owan Enoh as I said, I don’t see much effect from others that have defected.
Are you saying that the defection of Senator John Owan Enoh to the APC will affect the PDP in the next elections?
Well, I think that John Owan Enoh has some followership in the state and so we see him as a loss to the PDP. But like I said, even from his local government, others have moved from the APC to the PDP. So, there is a net effect which in the end probably might balance that.
When do you plan to defect to the ruling APC?
How? Based on what? I am not that type of politician; I don’t play my politics like that. I am a founding member of the PDP, and I am with the PDP through and through, and I have no reason to go to any other party.
It is alleged that multi-national oil companies induced members of the National Assembly on the PIB, and that is why there was a delay in its passage?
I am not aware of such an attempt. More so the governance bill is really about us in Nigeria getting our act together, it doesn’t have anything to do with the international oil companies.
All the players in the sector including the international oil companies will have a better environment in which to operate when the PIB is passed but its passage now really does not have anything to do with them.